Meet Ron Reed, the Founding Artistic Director of Pacific Theatre, the resident theatre company of the intimate theatre space in the Chalmers Heritage Building at 12th and Hemlock. Ron founded PT in 1984, and the company has resided in its current digs since ’94. They have received an epic 75 Jessie nominations since then.
Ron is a prolific actor, playwright, director and blogger; helming Soul Food Vancouver (quite possibly Vancouver’s very first theatre blog) since 2006. He’s a Jessie nominee himself, and is Artist-in-Residence at Trinity Western University.
His most recent work, Refuge of Lies, is onstage at PT until May 1st.
1. In one word, describe your present condition.
2. In as many words as you like, describe the present condition of the Vancouver theatre scene.
Lively, adventurous, supportive. It hasn’t always been like that: we have much to celebrate.
3. Please discuss the mandate and philosophy of PT.
To tell stories that explore spiritual experience. To treat each other well, even in the chaos of live theatre production. To do plays that interest us. To have fun. To offer the widest range of work possible within a given season that will serve our audience and our artists and our mandate: from the audacious Last Days Of Judas Iscariot straight to the family-friendly The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe, then the aesthetically risky Passion Project and Refuge Of Lies into a musical theatre chestnut like Godspell – how’s that! Also, a huge commitment to providing an artistic home to artists who love what we’re about: nurturing emerging artists, providing opportunities for our artists to do work they care about, staying engaged with specific playwrights over years.
4. Where does Pacific Theatre fit into the theatre ecology of Vancouver?
The mandate is unique, providing huge artistic/stylistic range while keeping a clear focus that is recognizable, and which really matters a significant audience. Not that we’re the only game in town with this sort of material, any more: it’s no longer out of bounds to deal directly with spiritual, even religious, even Christian themes and characters. But it’s where we live, and people seem to value that.
5. How well are we as an industry responding to the current government’s treatment of us of late?
We’ve put up a good fight, and I’m proud of us. And grateful to those who’ve invested more time and energy in it than I. Thornton Wilder: “Every good and excellent thing stands moment by moment on the razor’s edge of danger, and must be fought for.” God bless the fighters.
6. How has your theatre blogging affected your work, and that of your company’s?
It gives me a lot of personal pleasure. Sort of like keeping a journal / scrapbook, but other people can enjoy it as well. Also, I’m a born enthusiast: I see something I like, I’m compelled to tell people about it. Somebody I know is doing something cool, I want everybody to know. For our company? Maybe it enhances ticket sales, but mostly it lets people be much more involved with what’s going on at the company. Community building: I like that.
7. What should we as an industry be doing better to extend ourselves further into the consciousness of the potential audience?
I don’t like those kinds of shoulds. We don’t have the money to be significantly present in broadcast media, so we won’t be a pervasive presence in the public mind, that’s all there is to it. Still… Do your best work, keep having fun, and build community around you by engaging your audience in any aspect of the process and the work that you possibly can.
8. Who are your great theatrical influences?
Libby Appel and Robert Benedetti, my acting teacher and mentor (respectively) at CalArts. Morris Ertman, who’s directed me in a billion plays, and from our earliest days has shaped the way I think about everything theatrical. And so many of my fellow artists: when they are bold and inspire me to keep trying stuff, when they delight me with their creation and keep my courage and motivation and spirits up. Steven Soderbergh: “I want to thank anyone who spends part of their day creating. I don’t care if it’s a book, a film, a painting, a dance, a piece of theater, a piece of music. Anybody who spends part of their day sharing their experience with us. I think the world would be unlivable without art.”
9. What would you like to see more of on Vancouver stages?
10. What are your top 3 theatre reads?
Writing In Restaurants, David Mamet (but not his others!)
Eric Bentley’s essays and criticism from the fifties
Story, Robert McKee
But mostly it’s art that inspires me, not books about the art. Theatre, film, photography, poetry, dance, all of it. “Go thou and do otherwise.”
11. What’s next?
I’m acting in Godspell, which will be a blast. The past several seasons I’ve directed PT’s Emerging Artist showcase at the end of the season: this time it seemed like it would be more fun to act in it instead. (And I didn’t want the headache of directing the damn thing! Leave that to Sarah Rodgers…) Godspell had a huge impact on me in my early years, and I’m hungry to be in the middle of it. And scared (which is good) – I’m no song and dance man! Bring it on.